Sunday, February 5, 2023

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 22:07 (Nate) 


USA Today untimed (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:21 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:29 (Matthew) 


In the great tradition of charity puzzle packs, the wonderful folks at Grids for Kids just released a fantastic pack of 25 crosswords (some for kids, some for adults) all written by parents in support of a wide array of charities benefiting children. Nice!

Donate $10+ to a charity benefiting children (many of which can be found at their website), let Grids for Kids know about it at this form, and your puzzle pack will be on its way!

Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “Hollywood Remakes” —Nate’s write-up

Let’s jump into today’s Tinseltown grid, which you can still access online… an increasing rarity for NYT puzzles these days!

02.04.23 New York Times Crossword

02.04.23 New York Times Crossword

– 22A THEIR RITES TOUGH [“That cult’s initiation ceremony is brutal!” [1983]]
– 32A THAI TAN KNICK [Bronzed New York basketball player from Bangkok [1997]]
– 49A HELL OWED ALI [Why the Devil was forced to pay “The Greatest” [1969]]
– 65A AH MIDDAY YES [Cry after remembering to meet at noon [1984]]
– 81A SCHICK HOG GO [“You there, hoarding the Quattro razor! Scram! [2002]]
– 95A GLAD HE ATE HER [How one cannibal felt after devouring the other [2000]]
– 110 THUMB-MADE TRICKS [Some optical illusions created with one’s fingers [1999]]

– 30D OSCAR WINNER [What you get upon reading aloud the answers to the seven italicized clues]
– 46D SOUND MIXING [Category for which every 30-Down in this puzzle was recognized, aptly]

Ooof. I guess I’ll just say this puzzle wasn’t for me. I’ll give it credit for a lot of theme density, but I struggled mightily to get any of the themers until the tail end of my solve because they mostly read to me as nonsensical phrases of mostly short words strung together because they roughly sound like movie titles. I thought my inroad was GLAD HE ATE HER as an anagram for HEATH LEDGER, but not quite and it was back to the drawing board for me. Some of the themers especially didn’t land for me because the syllabification was off (HELL OWED ALI) or because they used different sounds all together (GLAD HE AT HER).

Critically, since the theme entries are meant to be (rough?) homophones, the SOUND MIXING revealer didn’t land for me. The sounds weren’t mixed, right? If anything, the weird phrases were meant to preserve the sounds as much as possible. I think this revealer would have been stronger if syllables from movie titles had be rearranged somehow, so I feel like I’m missing something, but this is the constructor’s 16th Sunday NYT puzzle so he must be doing something right.  If anything, I might have scaled back a bit on the theme density to spruce up the rest of the fill a bit, which felt like it suffered from the constraints of the puzzle.

On the bright side, I enjoyed clues like [Six-foot runners?] for ANTS and [Line at a karaoke bar] for LYRIC. Were there any other clues you enjoyed?

Be well, have a great weekend! And, if you’re in New England, stay warm!

Fred Piscop’s Universal Sunday crossword, “I’m Exhausted!”—Jim P’s review

Theme clues contain synonyms of the puzzle’s title with the keywords hinting at the professions which are the theme answers.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “I’m Exhausted!” · Fred Piscop · 2.5.23

  • 21a. [The ___ said “I’m all in!”] POKER PLAYER. This was a tough one to start with since I’ve never heard the phrase “all in” as a synonym for “exhausted.” I’ve only ever heard it used in gambling or as a sign of commitment.
  • 23a. [The ___ said “I’m spent!”] TREASURER.
  • 41a. [The ___ said “I’m fried!”] SHORT ORDER COOK. I think I like this one best since a SHORT ORDER COOK is probably one who does a lot of frying.
  • 63a. [The ___ said “I’m bushed!”] LANDSCAPER.
  • 67a. [The ___ said “I’m wiped!”] DISHWASHER.
  • 88a. [The ___ said “I’m tired!”] GOODYEAR DEALER. Meh. This doesn’t really fit. None of the others have brand names, and this isn’t an in-the-language phrase.
  • 111a. [The ___ said “I’m beat!”] TYMPANIST. Nice one, but I admit I had to try to remember what a tympani was. The word makes it sound light and delicate, like a flute. Not like a big, beefy drum.
  • 113a. [The ___ said “I’m shot!”] PHOTO EDITOR.

A tympani drum

So…a couple of misses for me, but mostly pretty good. I like the Tom-Swiftian nature of the theme, and it’s interesting to see how many different words we use to say the same thing. If only the British “knackered” could’ve been incorporated since it’s such a fun word.

Let’s see what we have in the lines of long fill: LET FREE, CURRANT, NEPALESE, CHILLIER, AM RADIO, GRENADA, GO TO SEA, AIR LEAK, TOW ROPE, ON LEAVE, MELROSE. Solid, though nothing especially sparkly. I think HOT SEAT is my favorite bit of fill in the grid. Nothing questionable or weird, and that made the solve proceed quite smoothly.

Clues of note:

  • 52a. [Non-Mormon, to a Mormon]. GENTILE. Huh. News to me. I guess it’s human nature to have a (potentially offensive) word for outsiders: GENTILE, haole (Hawaiian), sassenach (Scottish), muggle (Harry Potter). Here’s a whole list of them.
  • 78d. [Call-in show medium]. AM RADIO. I really thought this was using “medium” as a synonym for “seer.”

Solid, smooth Sunday grid. 3.5 stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “The Call of the Wild”—Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “The Call of the Wild,” 2/5/23

This week, Evan has found phrases that end in animal sounds, and we’ve got fun clues to go with them:

  • 23a [Sound made by … a wolf when a web page is being pulled up?] LOADING BAY
  • 25a [… a correct dolphin?] RIGHT CLICK
  • 39a [… a dog after it eats something coated with a brown spice?] CINNAMON BARK
  • 56a [… a stupid chicken?] DUMB CLUCK
  • 66a [… a bee flying near a grouchy Muppet?] OSCAR BUZZ
  • 83a [… a snake owned by author Horatio?] ALGER HISS
  • 93a [… an angry lion during rush hour?] TRAFFIC SNARL
  • 113a [… a sprinting cow?] RUNNING LOW
  • 116a [… a moose when it greets “Breaking Bad” lawyer Goodman?] SAUL BELLOW

Familiar theme entries and a fun gimmick.


  • 20a [“____ Holmes 2” (2022 mystery sequel)] ENOLA. The Enola Holmes films are witty and engaging, and an new perspective on Sherlock, as well. I’m a big fan after being unfamiliar with the book series that inspired them.
  • 22a [Country that has lost its way?: Abbr.] NOR. As in “Norway.” Cute
  • 59a [PC game in which you travel through a portal called a Linking Book] MYST. Myst was a bit before my time, but I remember my father playing it, and I’ve been meaning to try it out, with all my free time.
  • 92a [Personal appearances] MIENS. I just like this word.
  • 112a [Nat stat] ERA. As in a Washington Nationals (“Nats”) pitcher.
  • 124a [He cracked jokes with Andy on late-night TV] CONAN. Every once in a while I come across a clip of Conan’s podcast now, and enjoy it, but I’m just not much of a listener to banter-type podcasts like that.
  • 10d [Astronaut Kayla] BARRON. LCDR Barron has spent 176 days, 2 hours, and 39 minutes in space.
  • 29d [Bowling Green’s state] OHIO. I root for a school in the same conference as the Bowling Green Falcons, whose most significant rival is Toledo, both on the west end of Lake Erie.
  • 80d [Indie rock band with the 1995 album “Electr-O-Pura”] YO LA TENGO. I don’t know that I’ve heard anything from the band, but the source of their name is a nice trivia chestnut. From Wikipedia:

The name came from a baseball anecdote that occurred during the 1962 season, when New York Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn and shortstop Elio Chacón found themselves colliding in the outfield. When Ashburn went for a catch, he would scream, “I got it! I got it!” only to run into Chacón, a Venezuelan who spoke only Spanish. Ashburn learned to yell, “Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!” instead

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Foil-Wrapped” —Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer begins and ends with letters spelling out FOIL.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Foil-Wrapped” solution for 2/6/2023

  • 17a [“Vegan source of some omega-3 fatty acids”] FLAXSEED OIL
  • 24a [“Feature of a barn swallow”] FORKED TAIL
  • 51a [“What superheroes fight against”] FORCES OF EVIL
  • 61a [“Feature of a river delta or floodplain”] FERTILE SOIL

Four themers was a nice bonus for today. The title, “Foil-Wrapped,” made it pretty clear what to expect, theme-wise. FORCES OF EVIL was my favourite of the four, but I also really enjoyed FORKED TAIL (knowing the theme was helpful with this) and FLAXSEED OIL. Also: shout-out to Sally Hoelscher’s blog since I forgot to take a screenshot.

I appreciated the asymmetry of this grid. I also really enjoyed 10d [“Suspects something isn’t right”] SMELLS A RAT and 42d [”’That’ll do for me’”] I’M ALL SET. I also really enjoyed CHEERFUL and 5d [“‘Aw, already?’”] SO SOON.

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24 Responses to Sunday, February 5, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: What Nate said. I enjoy movies and puns, but none of these puns amused me in the least.

    The best thing about it is that it reminded me of one of my favorite NYT clue/answer pairs: “‘Titanic’ tagline?” : ICYDEADPEOPLE

    • Dallas says:

      This was a rough Sunday… I managed to get the theme at about halfway through without having any of the entries themselves… took a break for a shower, and THEIR RITE IS TOUGH came to me but … yeesh. Not really feeling as much of the other fill either. My wife joined the solve for the back half, which was more pleasant :-) Nonetheless, what’s done is done.

      I did learn that the Oscars decided to combine the two sound awards, so now there is no longer an award for sound mixing… a bit of a bummer to lose technical awards like that.

  2. Philip says:

    NYT: I have friends who are sound mixers (one mixed a current Oscar nominee!), and I think sound mixing is a critical and often underappreciated part of the film experience. So I really wish I could have liked this puzzle.

    • JohnH says:

      I got a big smile in coming at last to that second revealer, surely big enough that this for me was not at all a 1-rated puzzle. A shame the sound-alikes weren’t more smile worthy.

  3. David says:

    We liked the groaners – some great punning, if that’s your thing – but much of the fill brought about the wrong kinds of groans. WALL-HUNG? DOADUET? So it’s pretty tough to rate this puzzle, but we mostly enjoyed it.

    • Jeff K says:

      I’d add NODS OUT rather than the much more common NODS OFF

      • Jim says:

        Ditto on WALL HUNG and NODS OUT

        • gyrovague says:

          Yes, each of those entries was outstandingly bad. Even worse, as someone pointed out, none of the seven films actually won an Oscar for sound mixing, contrary to what 46-Down claims. Further still, as Nate points out, “sound mixing” is not what’s going on with the titles. Letter shuffling, perhaps, but not a mixing of sounds.

          I’m with David in that I enjoyed the tortured puns — the more groan-worthy, the more fun they are, I say — so these were mostly entertaining. They weren’t enough, however, to overcome the above.

      • John says:

        I’ve literally never heard/read “nods out” in my life. It’s just not idiomatic

  4. David L says:

    It always bugs me that creators of pun puzzles seem to have a tin ear when it comes to words and phrases that actually sound alike. Of today’s NYT offerings, only GLADHEATEHER and (maybe) THAITANKNICK immediately brought the movie title to mind. With THEIRRITESTOUGH and AHMIDDAYYES it was a struggle to figure out what was being hinted at.

    And I will add a big thumbs-down to WALLHUNG, NODSOUT, and DOADUET.

    • R says:

      It bugs me that so many solvers have no patience or curiosity or flexibility when it comes to playing with the pronunciation of words. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a language person, but I don’t get why some people get so frustrated by very slight wordplay that isn’t strictly spelling-based.

      • JohnH says:

        I agree. I suspected that the puzzle would earn displeasure from that alone, for all its other drawbacks reviewed her. But pronunciation would be my last complaint. It didn’t even invite the usual complaints about vowel sounds, given the difference between, say, Chicago (where Mary = merry) and New York.

      • David L says:

        I’ve always been a language person too, having spent most of my career writing and editing. What I find off-putting about a puzzle such as today’s is that the puns are just not very good, for the most part. The changes in spelling don’t bother me. That’s to be expected. But with the couple of exceptions I mentioned, the themers simply don’t sound very much like the movie titles they correspond to, to the point I had trouble figuring out what some of them were.

        ICYDEADPEOPLE, which Eric H mentioned above, is fantastic.

        FWIW, I never cared much for Merl Reagle’s puzzles, back in the day. Heresy, I know, but there it is. Fingernails on a blackboard.

  5. reid says:

    Well I’ll be the positive one here and say that I really liked the NYT today! I thought it was fun to try and piece together the movies, and provided a challenge that Sundays haven’t really been offering in a while

    • R says:

      I agree. I was impressed with the density and the aha moments were pretty satisfying, especially since it’s rare that you really have to read a theme entry out loud to get it.

  6. Alison says:

    I agree with Reid. Fun puzzle.

  7. Von says:

    Sorry to be so late to comment. I always take my time to do the puzzle… chores first.
    I found the puzzle to be Sunday tough plus had to say some of the clues out loud several times to get them. I looked up the movies as I like to research this type of thing. The movies in the clues were released on the date indicated in the clue and received the Sound mixing Oscars the following year. Brought back a lot of memories so that was a plus. This must have been a tough construct so thanks for the challenge!

  8. David says:

    In retrospect I like most of the theme answers, but SCHICK HOG GO is so silly that the puzzle left a bad taste in my mouth. Not a fan of NODS OUT instead of OFF, either :/

  9. Gumby says:

    I really liked this one. I thought the puns were quite clever and it was fun to figure out what they were. And it was something different so it was a nice change.

  10. AlanW says:

    I’m sometimes critical of technical infelicities in crosswords, but count me among the minority who thoroughly enjoyed Jeremy’s NYT. It takes a special, almost musical ear to hear the sounds, rather than the sense, in those movie titles, and then to reconstruct them, more or less (and less is funnier) by combining–i.e., mixing–unrelated sounds. (To a lesser extent, maybe it takes the same kind of ear to decode the entries, which is why experiences vary so widely.) I give it five stars.

    If you didn’t like this puzzle, then you certainly won’t like Howard Chace’s 1956 classic Anguish Languish.

  11. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Matthew writes, “80d [Indie rock band with the 1995 album “Electr-O-Pura”] YO LA TENGO. I don’t know that I’ve heard anything from the band . . . .”

    Aw man. They’re fantastic. Go listen to them.

    It was great seeing them in a puzzle with NEKO CASE, another favorite of mine.

  12. just a crossword fan says:

    picky, Picky, PICKY!

    Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this puzzle (hell.owed.Dali – Hello Dolly! cracked the code for me)…but I’d rate it 5☆ for originality and cleverness.

    But then, what do I know?
    I don’t try to solve crosswords at Breakneck Speed.
    I appreciate common crosswordese that provides welcome entry points into puzzles.
    And I don’t go looking for nits to pick about the grid, construction or fill.

    I’m just a retired Baby Boomer and lifelong puzzler, who teethed on Dell Crossword magazines,still gets a High when a particularly clever theme is uncovered…and hopes he never becomes blase or overly critical when solving.

    One other thought for all of you Crossword Wizards out there.
    I suspect The New York Times crosswords are not specifically designed and edited with you in mind…but for ordinary people who enjoy the challenge, delight and satisfaction of puzzling through a crossword.
    Keep it in mind when you go scouring for those nits.

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